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US bill includes funding for key Pacific allies to prevent government shutdown — Radio Free Asia

Legislation to fund the U.S. government now includes economic assistance for three Pacific island nations critical to U.S. military presence in the region, following intense lobbying efforts.

The leaders of Palau, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands, along with the New Zealand and Australian ambassadors to the U.S. and numerous American politicians, raised concerns about delays in securing funding, warning of China’s growing influence in the absence of support.

Palau’s President Surangel J Whipps expressed optimism about the recent progress, noting the consensus reached by Congress and the White House on the legislation set for action.

The bill, posted on the House of Representatives calendar, will provide funding for key government functions for the rest of the fiscal year and support the compacts of free association between the U.S. and the three island nations.

These agreements grant the U.S. military access to the territories of the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau in exchange for funding and opportunities for their citizens to reside and work in the U.S., while also securing U.S. control over strategic waters in the Pacific.

Amid escalating U.S.-China competition in the Pacific, the economic assistance agreements signed last year represent a significant commitment from the U.S. and underscore its strategic importance in the region.

The micronesia government expressed confidence in the legislative process, anticipating progress in the House of Representatives before Senate deliberations and President Biden’s approval.

Micronesia’s President Wesley Simina emphasized the crucial role of the compacts in supporting the well-being of his people and regional stability.

Previous concerns about potential economic exploitation by foreign actors underscore the importance of securing funding for these agreements, particularly in light of China’s growing presence and influence in the Pacific.

U.S. analysts have warned of the consequences of failing to uphold these commitments, noting the potential for China to exploit any void left by the U.S.

Efforts by China to gain influence in the region have raised alarm among Pacific island nations and their allies, prompting renewed attention from the U.S. to counter these strategic moves.

As the U.S. military projects in the region continue, the focus on maintaining security and strategic partnerships remains a top priority for both the U.S. and its Pacific allies.

BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated online news organization.

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